2013-09-26 / Opinion

Sailing–A Cause for Celebration

Regardless of where you fall in the great monohull/multihull debate that has swirled around the America’s Cup in recent years, for the moment, let’s just consider it water under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Controversies aside, when it comes to this iteration of the America’s Cup, there remains quite a bit to celebrate.

Over the course of the last week, not only has sailing once again managed to claim a center stage in the world of international sport, it has also succeeded in capturing the attention of sailors both young and old, and more importantly, the imagination of the general public.

On the water, the action was as intense as organizers had famously promised in describing the new format as like NASCAR on the water.

Meanwhile, shoreside, the rabid enthusiasm demonstrated by the scores of Kiwis who packed the streets of downtown San Francisco served as a reminder of the sport’s global reach.

In short: The spectacle that Larry Ellison had visualized had become a reality. And as if willing the race to a final match showdown, his gamble of bringing the Cup to San Francisco in the hopes of reasserting its place in global competition seemed to pay off.

Whatever boats are used for the next America’s Cup, or how many teams are able to finance and mount a viable challenge, it seems today that after a long departure from the spotlight, the visceral appeal of the America’s Cup has returned.

Of course Newport has a special place in the history of sailing and within the narrative of the America’s Cup in particular.

And while we may have lost out on the chance to host the final series to our western brethren, Newport would do well to recognize and build upon those economic and cultural opportunities that sailing – both as a sport and as an industry – holds.

It’s with this in mind that we pay particular attention to the happenings at Fort Adams, where this week Sail Newport is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Born out of the 1983 America’s Cup loss to Australia, Sail Newport has been a beacon for the city’s sailing industry, providing instruction and regatta management for thousands of youth and elite sailors and keeping Newport at the fore of the competitive sailing community. Over the years, it has served as an anchor tenant for Fort Adams, giving life to the fort year round, and its programs have been replicated by organizations far and wide.

Executive Director Brad Read has gone on record countless times saying that losing the America’s Cup was one of the best things that could have happened to sailing in Newport.

He may indeed be right. Over the past 30 years, Newport has played host to a wide variety of local, national, and international championships for classes of all sizes, and our sailing ecology is as diverse as any port in the world.

Sail Newport is the community’s heart, and it’s with a tremendous amount of gratitude that we offer our thanks and congratulations to Read and his team for their tireless efforts to keep sailing a vital part of Newport’s cultural landscape. And to Bart Dunbar, Dr. Robin Wallace, and Paul Buttrose, who conceived of Sail Newport during that somber September of 1983, we are all indebted.

Yes, losing the America’s Cup may indeed have been a good thing for the city in the long term. But getting it back would be nice, too.

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